Date of this Version
Mikha, MM, Jin, VL, Johnson, JMF, Lehman, RM, Karlen, DL, & Jabro, JD. Land management effects on wet aggregate stability and carbon content. Soil Sci Soc Am J. 2021;1–20. https://doi.org/10.1002/saj2.20333
Land management affects soil structure and many other soil properties and processes. Our objectives were to evaluate soil organic C (SOC), aggregate size distribution, aggregate-associated C, and soil structure as affected by long-term land management and slope. A chronosequence of 38 on-farm sites with low to high (5–18%) slopes was selected to evaluate 5–40 yr of management. The sites were classified as business as usual (BAU) cropland (BAU-Crop), BAU pasture (BAU-Past), newly established conservation reserve program (CRP) areas (CRP-New), and established CRP (CRP-Old). Soil samples were collected from the 0-to-5- and 5-to-15-cm depth increments and processed for soil property measurements including fractionation by wet sieving into five aggregate size classes (>2,000, 1,000–2,000, 500–1,000, 250–500, and 53–250 μm). Within the surface 5 cm, mean weight diameter (MWD) and geometric mean diameter (GMD) were used to characterize soil structural stability. The BAU-Past and CRP-Old sites had 79% more macroaggregates (>2,000, 1,000–2,000, and 500–1,000 μm), 123% higher MWD, 38% higher GMD, and 47% higher SOC than BAU-Crop or CRP-New sites. The 5-to-15-cm depth increment showed a similar but lower magnitude response. Aggregate-associated C was quantified using a constant soil mass that reflected aggregate size distribution to prevent overestimating C content. Lower-slope locations had more SOC, more macroaggregates, more C associated with macroaggregates, and higher GMD and MWD compared with high-slope locations across all management classifications and soil depths. The results support our hypothesis that the high-slop soils may benefits from specific management decisions than the lower-sloping soils as a function of landscape property. We recommend reestablishing grassland on sloping land that is susceptible to excessive soil erosion, although those practices will likely take a long time to restore soil structural stability and SOC content to precultivation levels.